Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Best YA Books of 2012 & One Favorite Book for Adults

Happy 12/12/12...I should have posted at noon!

A book makes the best holiday gifts if well matched to the reader. Buying for teenagers can be especially challenging. Luckily for the perplexed parents out there, I read a lot of young adult (YA) fiction since that is what I write. My gift suggestions aren't kids' books but complex, literary novels featuring teens making the transition to adulthood. These books would crossover well to an adult audience as well. I've thrown in one adult title, which would be appropriate for teens too. All the books were published in 2012. To read my full reviews, click on the title links.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein was the best book I read this year. Set in Nazi occupied France, this historical novel might be better suited for adults. What makes it YA is the age of the protagonists: the captured Scottish spy and her English pilot are both 18-year-old girls. The novel focuses on their friendship and their bravery. This is a book I will read a second time and pass onto my 15-year-old daughter when she's a bit older. My British husband loved it too.

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green is a tragic romance between two teenagers with cancer, but it made me laugh as much as it made me cry. Green is the only YA author that my 18-year-old son still reads (his Hanukkah request was Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace in adult literary fiction). Green's YA novel was also recommended by AARP for retired people. Both Green's and Wein's books made the best 2012 YA list in The New York Times.

If you're looking for a lighter story, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith was my favorite contemporary YA romance. An American teenager is seated beside a British Yale student on a flight to London. Their whimsical love story spans 24 jet lagged hours. My daughter enjoyed it too. A similar American-in-London romance is Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill.

Small Damages by Beth Kephart also transports the reader to a new world. A teenaged American girl is sent to Seville, Spain to face the consequences of an accidental pregnancy. This book has a marvelous sense of place with gorgeous, literary writing. It's a quiet, sunlit story meant to be savored.

In The Knife and the Butterfly by Ashley Hope Pérez, a teenaged boy faces the consequences of  gang warfare. Violence, drugs and swearing make this book best suited to a mature audience. Nothing is gratuitous and this original novel delivers a strong moral message without sounding preachy. It would make a terrific gift for a teenaged boy.

As a teenager, one of my favorite authors was Barbara Kingsolver. Now she's my daughter's favorite adult author. Flight Behavior focuses on climate change, Monarch butterflies and a young woman's journey to finding herself. It was the best book for adults that I read this year and would be appropriate for young teen readers too. My mother, another Kingsolver fan, loved it as well.

Reviewer's Disclaimer: I received free ARCs of Small Damages, The Knife and the Butterfly and Flight Behavior for review purposes. I bought the other books myself. Beth Kephart and Ashley Hope Pérez are blog buddies.

Blog Watch authors: Keri Mikulski writes sporty romances for younger teens. Ellen Booraem writes middle grade fantasy. Alyssa Goodnight writes romantic fantasy for women. Barrie Summy, host of our blogger book review club, writes middle grade mysteries. David Cranmer edits, writes and publishes pulp fiction. Elizabeth Wix has self-published several novels for readers of varying ages. Pamela has self-published a lovely bound edition of essays from her blog, From the House of Edward; my aunt and uncle will get a copy for Christmas. What a talented group!

More Best 2012 YA Book Lists:
Kirkus Reviews
The Atlantic Wire
Good Reads

From the house of two religions: Happy Hanukkah!

I've dropped word verification, but you will now need to sign into 
Google, Open ID or your blogging account to comment. 
 What was the best book you read this year?


A Cuban In London said...

Ahh... novels that happen to have teenagers in them. I definitely agree with this sentence "literary novels featuring teens making the transition to adulthood." I think sometime we're too focused on genre and forget what I think it's literature's main aim: to entertainment. It doesn't matter whether it's high- or low-brow (I hate "brows" :-D) or if it's mainly about teenagers or adults, to me a book must amuse me.

Code Name Verity sounds like a good read and I remember making a similar comment when you posted your review. I promised myself that I would read all the books I haven't read yet that populate my shelves before I purchase any new title but... hmmm... just in case I'll check Code Name's price on amazon.

Happy Hanukkah to you too!

Greetings from London.

Cat said...

Thanks for the suggestions Sarah. I've 'pinned' the post and will refer to it when looking for something to read. At your suggestion, Kingsolver's new book is at the top of my holiday reading.

Hope you're enjoying the season!

Beth Kephart said...

Oh my gosh, this is beautiful.

And oh my gosh: the company!!!!!

Thank you, Sarah!

(and hello to you again, Ms. Wein!)

Anonymous said...

Sarah, I'd like to read the Code Name Verity and The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. For my 15-year-old son it's not easy to choose a book, he prefers technical ones to novels and stories. Nevertheless he likes Michael Scott and his series The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, he'd like to find the last book of the series under the Christmas tree. I hope I can get it.

To answer your question what was the best book I read this year, I need to cite Robert Ludlum's Bourne trilogy. I've enjoyed reading it both for its plot and its English. :)

elizabeth said...

Some excellent suggestions here!
Code Name Verity sounds as if I would like it very much.
Impossible to see the code verification......I bet this puts some people off commenting --though I can understand why it might be necessary!

Sarah Laurence said...

ACIL, I think you'd like Verity. Since it was published in the UK too (the author is an American married to a Brit) it should be available in your library. It's worth buying to reread, which is what you'll want to do when you finish.

Cat, I'd love to hear your reaction.

Beth, it was my pleasure.

Petra, it's good to hear of a teenaged boy who still enjoys reading. I just checked Smith's website and Statistical is available in Czech!

Elizabeth, sorry about the word verification it has gotten worse lately. I'm trying an experiment of removing word verification but requiring commenters to sign into Google, Open ID or their blogging platform to comment. You would love Verity.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

What a grand list. I haven't read any of these, although a few are on my TBR list. I appreciate these mini-reviews so much.
Happy double holidays to you and yours!

Rose said...

An excellent list, Sarah. "The Fault In Our Stars" has been especially popular with teens at our school. Just started reading "Flight Behavior." With the holidays, it may take me a long time to get it finished, but I do love Kingsolver's style and lovely prose so far.

Best book I read this past year? That's hard to say, but "Running the Rift" has to be right up there. I really need to write a review of this one...

Wishing you and your family a very Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas!

troutbirder said...

Looks like several good reads and I did read, review and thoroughly enjoy Flight Behavior.
Incidentally I too dropped word verification and no problems. Then allowed anonymous.... bad mistake.

Sarah Laurence said...

Tricia, I’m looking forward to reading your reviews.

Rose, I’m glad to hear that you are enjoying Kingsolver on my recommendation. I bought Running the Rift for my son who loves to run. Maybe I should read it too. How about posting your review for January’s book review club?

Troutbirder, I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed Flight Behavior too. I’m sorry to lose the occasional non-blogger comment but not all the spammers. My comments have dropped by 2/3 since Google made word verification trickier. It often takes me 2 tries to get it right myself. Thanks for sticking with me despite the test.

All, I’m off to our local bookstore soon to buy another copy of Code Name Verity as an X-mas gift for a family member. I’m also considering a couple more books for myself: The Round House by Louise Erdrich (it’s adult literary fiction but with a teen MC and Erdrich is another favorite author of mine) and The 12 Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis (debut literary fiction.) I already have a big stack of young adult fiction at home. I’m looking forward to some reading time over vacation.

A Cuban In London said...

Sorry to hear about your husband, Sarah. I hope he gets better soon. No worries about not visiting. Your REAL life is more important! :-) I think sometimes we bloggers forget that we have proper lives outside blogland. If I don't hear from you again, I wish a nice Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and your family.

Greetings from London.

Sarah Laurence said...

ACIL, a visit to the ER revealed that my husband has strep throat. Penicillin should do the trick. Thanks for your concern. The kids helped me get a tree while their dad rested. I'm wishing for a healthy Xmas. Happy Holidays to you too!

Gloria Baker said...

Thanks for all Sarah abd your nice comments, today some of blogger make and special post for the victims in the school, if you want to see.
Of course Im following you, love your blog!xo

Carol said...

Belated Happy Hanukkah Sarah . . . as well as . . . 12/12/12! Barbara Kingsolver is at the top of my list . . . she is one of my favorite authors and of course monarchs are dear to me too. Great list! Happiest of Holidays! Glad you have connected with the Hattatts!

Anonymous said...

Sarah, I'm here again to tell you I really found The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight under our Christmas tree! :) I liked it. The story is gripping and leading you from its beginning to the end. I intend to read the book once more because I won't need to hurry to see what will happen but will be able to enjoy the language and thoughts more thoroughly. It's easy reading but not simple if you understand me. Nevertheless, there are two things I don't like and that's the too positive way which everything ends in and certain predictability of the course of actions. But I guess that may be good for young adult romance.

By the way, I read the book in Czech but had a look at those few pages in English offered in Amazon. I liked both and have to say that the translation is very good!

Sarah Laurence said...

Gloria, thanks! It's nice to be connected with you too.

Carol, thanks for connecting us.

Petra, it was really interesting to hear your feedback on the Czech edition and the quality of the translation. I could see this story having universal appeal. Thanks for coming back to comment!